When April died, Roger wore his black shirt.
It wasn't anything special, just a simple black, polyester shirt with long sleeves and shiny black buttons that went down the middle. He had probably thrifted it for a buck at Goodwill in a last minute haste to own something, - anything - that was more formal than old band tees or ripped plaid shirts. He doesn't exactly remember why he bought it, but he knows it wasn't for this. Despite the humidity of mid-Spring, he nervously pulls down the sleeves to hide the burning track marks that line his arm where veins should be. Despite everything going on around him, he really needs a hit.
It's the first time Roger meets her parents. Her mother gives him a limp hug before stepping to the edge of the giant hole in the ground, dug especially for her daughter. Holding herself, she kicks some of the dirt and gravels into the pit of Earth, watching as it descends and shuddering as it disappears into the darkness. Roger's stomach clenches as he begins to hear her choking sobs. Her father shakes his hand and gives him a smile that either says, "You did everything you could" or "I wish you could have done more". Roger doesn't have the energy to decipher it, but he nods as a half-assed attempt at an empathetic understanding. Really, at this point, Roger's senses are fucked. He's not sure if it's because of the disease, the drugs, or the fact that he's at his successfully suicidal girlfriend's funeral. He figures it's probably a combination of the three. So it takes a minute for his brain to acknowledge the warm palm squeezing his shoulder. But when he does recognize the touch, he turns around. Behind the reflection of glasses, sad, blue eyes stare back at him. Then, there's more touching. Arms wrapping around his neck, a warm body pressed against his in a hug. He can't feel his limbs, so he doesn't hug back, but he allows himself to be embraced. "You're gonna be okay, Rog. I promise, you're gonna be okay." He knows he inhales and exhales deeply, but almost doesn't feel the wet stains against his cheeks as he cries into his roommate's chest. He doesn't feel the chaste kiss that Mark rests on his lips.
When Angel died, Roger wore his black shirt.
The color has faded a bit and it looks more like a charcoal gray than black, but he still deems it suitable. One of the buttons is missing towards the bottom, but he doesn't bother taking notice. The track marks have mostly faded, but Roger knows the scarring is still there. It's an unusually warm Halloween, but he still keeps his sleeves pulled down.
This time, though, Roger feels the tears that leave wet streaks down his face. Out of everyone, Angel had the most life, and yet, ironically, there he was, lying breathless in the ground, under six feet of earth, his benevolent heart at a standstill. If he could be deprived of life, he who was hopeful and passionate, then what was keeping Roger around? Roger, who sometimes wished that he were dead, but mostly pleaded for life, just. Not the life he had. Every breath he took made him feel guilty, but also made him want to appreciate all that he did have, regardless of how little that may have been. If not for himself, then for Angel.
That's why he knew he had to get out of New York. It wasn't because he didn't love Mimi, but the countless fights were wearing them both down. Not to mention that he knew she was better off with Benny. They might have loved each other, sure, but Benny had money. And money, Roger knew, could help her, maybe even save her. So when he sold his guitar, it wasn't as painful as he had thought it would be. He got just enough money to buy an old Ford and a couple of nights at a hotel. He tried not to think about what would happen when the money was gone. He had told only one person, but he had a feeling a little birdie with glasses and a striped scarf had told the rest of the gang because Mimi had asked so silently after the funeral, "It's true you sold your guitar and bought a car?" It's true.
When Roger gets back to the loft, he doesn't change. He figures a black shirt might come in handy. Loss seems to follow him, no matter where he goes.
When Mimi died, Roger wore his black shirt.
So many of the buttons are missing now that Roger isn't sure how he can still button it at all. The color is a sad, dull gray and the edges of the cuffs are frayed and torn. It's only been two weeks after Christmas, after they found Mimi in the park. It's cold. Freezing. Roger has no choice but to wear his sleeves down.
He doesn't go to the funeral. He can't bear it, not again. He can't look down another hole in the ground, at the makeshift wooden coffin with the name of his loved one spray-painted haphazardly across the top. So he stays at the loft and Mark offers to stay with him. The last two weeks had been strange. In his attempt to nurse Mimi back to health, he realized something. He loved Mimi, but wasn't quite in love with her. Yeah, he wanted to see her happy and healthy and would have done anything for that to become a reality. He felt guilty knowing that she died thinking that there was more to them than that.
Roger has a blanket draped over his shoulders when Mark sits beside him and pulls it closer. Neither boy knows what to say. The loft is dark except for a strand of Christmas lights Mark found in the trash and decided to hang for the sake of "atmosphere". Roger liked to poke fun and say that Mark only hung them because he couldn't have them as a kid, being Jewish and all. But Mark would pout and say that wasn't the reason at all. He'd say that the loft was too dingy, it was depressing. But right now, Roger thinks not even Christmas lights can make the loft any less dismal.
Mark kisses him softly because it's the only way he knows how to comfort his best friend, but he's taken off guard when Roger's tongue slips between his lips. He moans softly into the chapped, pink skin as he feels cold, callused hands drop to his hips. Roger needs to be loved because he's almost out of love to give. And Mark, Mark knows how to love Roger and doesn't really expect anything in return. So when Roger hooks his fingers in the belt loops of Mark's jeans, Mark helps him slide them off and spreads his legs. He tangles his fingers in the messy curls of Roger's dark blonde hair and yelps as teeth sink into his neck. He feels his erection pulsing against his stomach, the cotton fabric of his boxers stretching around it. When Roger needs comfort, Mark is always there to give it to him and is more than willing.
Roger pulls his jeans down, his own erection struggling against his boxers. He struggles with the buttons of his black shirt, fumbling to undo them. One pops in his urgency, but neither boy cares. Mark takes the liberty of pulling the raggedy fabric off the rocker's scarred arms before he kisses his mutilated veins, letting him know that he isn't scared. He isn't running away. When his boxers are slipped down his legs, Mark spreads himself farther, exposing and revealing and telling Roger, "I'm yours." When Roger's boxers are discarded and a condom is rolled on to him, he's sure he could come right there, but struggles to keep from blowing. He presses the head of his cock against Mark's entrance, which is tight and warm and all too familiar. Mark whimpers which only makes Roger moan, his erection pulsing against the clenched hole. "Relax", he says, and Mark takes a long, deep breath at the same moment Roger begins to push into him. Mark bucks his hips and whines, but Roger doesn't stop. It's messy and painful for them both, but neither boy even thinks about stopping. Roger begins to thrust in and out with a rhythm that Mark can't keep up with, but tries to. He chokes out Roger's name as he fists his own erection, imagining it's Roger's rough hands instead of his own. It's been too long since Roger was inside Mark, but, God it feels good, and there's something about this time that's different from the rest. Roger wonders if the person he was in love with was here all along, but before he can consider it more, both boys come hard and fast, and Roger is too focused on the sound of Mark's squeals of pleasure to think about as something as serious as love.
The black shirt is left on the floor beside the couch where the two boys end up falling asleep in each other's arms.
When Roger died, he wasn't wearing his black shirt.
With some help from Maureen, Joanne, Collins, and even Benny, Mark is able to buy a full suit for Roger. It's open casket, upon his mother's wishes, but Mark has always thought something was morbid about the tradition, aside from the fact that Jewish funerals had no such thing. Regardless, Roger looks peaceful, probably as peaceful as ever. The black lesions and track marks are covered by makeup and Roger looks more like a doll than a person, but he has more color in his cheeks than Mark has ever seen. He wants to say something, but isn't sure that there are any words left. So he takes a deep breath and wishes his roommate, best friend, and lover a final goodbye. It's an unusually cold March and Mark throws his jacket over Roger's old, black shirt.